HCGH Takes Breastfeeding Seriously

Doris Cybert Wlcher, Lactation Consultant (left) and Sheila Donahue, Director of HCGH Women’s and Children’s Services

You may remember staggering around during those interminable nights as a brand new mom. Sleep deprivation, an equally clueless baby-daddy and an inconsolable infant made it easy to forget everything you knew about the benefits of breastfeeding and even easier to reach for that bottle of formula instead. Times have changed since I had my first baby at Howard County General Hospital and although breastfeeding was considered a good option back then, the encouragement and resources to successfully introduce new moms and babies to breastfeeding were limited. Today, as we jump-start a culture shift that favors breastfeeding, all of that is about to change.

Here in Maryland, we have one of the lowest breastfeeding rates and one of the highest rates of supplementation in the nation.  According to the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) Breastfeeding Report Card, nearly 31 percent of infants in Maryland receive formula before they are two days old. (The national average is 24.5 percent) The CDC strongly supports breastfeeding as one of the most highly effective preventative measures a mom can take to protect the health of her child. According to the CDC, “In the United States, although most mothers hope to breastfeed, and 75 percent of babies start out being breastfed, only 15 percent are exclusively breastfed six months later.” In response to these and other statistics, the National Initiative for Children’s Healthcare Quality (NICHQ) has launched a “Best Fed Beginnings” program. The 22-month intensive program helps hospitals achieve a “Baby-Friendly” designation. The designation is awarded to hospitals that have successfully implemented the American Academy of Pediatrics-endorsed Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding. In the United States, there aren’t very many hospitals with this designation. Of the approximately 20,000 hospitals worldwide that have attained the Baby-Friendly designation, only 143 are in the U.S.

Howard County General Hospital (HCGH), designated as one of 90 hospitals nationwide to participate in the “Best Fed Beginnings” program, has been a supportive voice for breastfeeding. Dr. Tuvia Blechman, Chairman of Pediatrics and Medical Director of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at HCGH, explained, “Howard County General is unique in that we see more than 90 percent of new mothers breastfeeding while in the hospital following delivery. The strong support services and breastfeeding programs we have in place make it possible for these new mothers to continue successfully breastfeeding long after they leave us, which is very beneficial for both baby and mother.”  The support services include a team of physicians, lactation consultants and maternal nurses with special training in lactation. This team works together to support a new mother’s choice to breastfeed and encourages new mothers to get answers to questions about breastfeeding during their hospital stay.

While the hospital works to improve breastfeeding statistics, it will always do so with the understanding that breastfeeding may not be the best alternative for every mom or every baby. But for the new moms who have the choice, I’m glad HCGH will be there to support and encourage you as you undertake one of the hardest but most rewarding aspects of motherhood.

View the video below to hear about breastfeeding from the perspective of a young mother who recently delivered at Howard County General Hospital:


Mary Catherine Cochran is a big believer in communications and the critical role that it plays in community building.  (Although she is still adjusting to doing it in 140 characters or less!) When she isn’t busy truncating the message, she works as a Senior Communications Project Manager at Howard County General Hospital: Johns Hopkins Medicine where, among other things, she manages and writes for the Well & Wise blog.


  1. I am thrilled to see HCGH taking real steps to encourage women to breastfeed, and was particularly happy to read recently of the decision to stop providing free advertising to formula companies in the form of those formula sample “gift bags” currently given to new moms.

  2. As a local lactation consultant, I am thrilled for what this means for our community. While our breastfeeding initiation rates are reaching our goals, we know, as the article states, that these rates drop off quickly. This tells us that women WANT to breastfeed but simply aren’t equipped by their culture and health care providers to do so. Changes, such as those happening at HCGH, are critical for women to reach their OWN goals. I’m thankful that my local hospital is stepping up to the plate!

  3. Karina Kohnke

    I’d be interested to know of places that discuss breastfeeding and working moms. I will be home for 3 months when I have my kiddo, but it’s hard to find things on how to deal with bottles, day care and breastmilk/feeding.

    • Have you looked into the healthy families program at the Wellness Center? They have a new mom’s group that might be just the ticket? Call 410 740-7602 to get more information about the program!

  4. Melanie

    I delivered my daughter at HCGH the staff was great about breastfeeding I learned a lot from the lactation consultant my daughter is 3 months now strictly breastfed thanks to the help of their staff!

  5. Vanessa

    Essentially they are attempting to take away the the choice from parents. I just had a baby there and I had to be FIRM in MY CHOICE to formula feed. I feel horrible for first time parents that have to deal with that hospital. If I wasn’t someone who could speak my mind I could see the nur ses forcing me to do something that was not for me. There isn’t a nursery which is important for Mom’s with other children at home. The lack of a nursery takes away the Mom’s right to rest and recover as well as shower post delivery. Especially if their husband has to handle the older child or children.